Sheila Reed’s 3rd grade class from Netzaberg Elementary School created a range of projects like habitat dioramas for hedgehogs and tawny owls and field guides about each species.

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — The Environmental Division congratulates the families and students who participated in this years’ Experience Spring contest.


One family along with eight classes from Netzaberg, Vilseck and Hohenfels Elementary Schools submitted entries. The purpose of the contest is to encourage children to explore nature, learn about local German plant and animal species and foster an appreciation for the environment.


The contest focused on four spring harbingers: the banded snail, European hedgehog, tawny owl and goat willow.


Children were encouraged to get creative in exploring and discovering each species, then compile their efforts for their contest submission.


Environmental Division staff got the idea for the Experience Spring contest from the Erlebter Frühling contest held by Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), a German environmental non-governmental organization. The Environmental Division plans to send all the garrison entries to NABU’s Erlebter Frühling contest to show the American military’s commitment to protecting our environment.                                                                                                                  


Judging was based on criteria such as creativity, devotion to learning about each spring sign and long-term impact on student knowledge.


“The children’s passion for learning about the spring signs and the pride they invested in their projects shines through in each of the contest submissions. It makes me happy to see how much enthusiasm these kids put in their work and how they enjoyed learning about local nature,” said Environmental Division’s Caecilia Kastl-Meier.


The Jones Family was awarded first prize for conducting a variety of fun activities like banded snail races, searching for tawny owls while out on nature walks and the most unique of all, learning all about how hedgehogs survive the winter by hibernating and depending on fat reserves stored up in the summer and autumn months. The family shared how they found an injured hedgehog in their garage last fall. After realizing the weak hedgehog was still alive, they took it to a local hedgehog expert to recuperate and then later returned it to their yard, as that is his native home area.


Another first prize award was given to Sheila Reed’s 3rd grade class from Netzaberg Elementary School. Students chose which spring sign they wanted to focus on and went to work researching their harbinger. Then came time to get creative, writing stories about the banded snail, authoring field guides about the goat willow and banded snail, designing an informative poster about the goal willow, observing live banded snails, creating informative slide shows about the banded snail and goat willow, and constructing habitat dioramas for the tawny owl and hedgehog.


Griselda Ready’s 3rd grade class from Netzaberg Elementary School came in a close second by dividing into groups and choosing either the banded snail, tawny owl or hedgehog to study and fashion awesome projects about. Students acted out a play about the banded snail, created a hedgehog coloring book, made up two different games about the tawny owl, wrote a poem about hedgehogs, and created informative posters.


Following Ready’s class was Denise Fuentecilla’s 3rd grade class from Vilseck Elementary School. Her students researched the spring messengers by reading articles

Denise Fuentecilla’s 3rd grade class from Vilseck Elementary created a beautiful picture quilt featuring artwork and facts about each of the four signs of spring.

and watching videos. They then drew their favorite harbinger using oil pastels and wrote a fact about it. Students then arranged their drawings and facts in a beautiful paper quilt, which now graces the 3rd grade hallway.


Finally, five wonderful classrooms from Hohenfels Elementary School participated and placed fourth. Gwendalynn Gamble, Kathryn Iacampo and Mary Baker’s 2nd grade classes focused on the goat willow, hedgehog and banded snail. Students harvested goat willow branches to make a living teepee, and collected natural materials to create snail houses and nests for hibernating hedgehogs. Marcialyn Heath and Colleen Caputo’s 3rd grade classes focused on the hedgehog and tawny owl. They built nests for their pinecone hedgehogs and wrote stories about how they constructed their nests. Another class built nesting boxes for tawny owls and even got to use power tools in the process. They will be hanging them around the school in hopes of attracting tawny owls to the area.


“A big congratulations and thank you to all the children, teachers and parents who participated. We appreciate your hard work and dedication to learning about the diversity of our environment. We hope you enjoyed the contest,” said Christine Fox, staff member, Environmental Division.


For those interested in participating in the 2018 Experience Spring contest, the Environmental Division will be announcing the new messengers of spring and contest details in the beginning of the new year.

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